By, Vanessa Marie
Like many, I had big plans for 2020. I was going to write a ton of new songs and perform them all throughout NY and NJ, I was planning a fun trip to Florida with my best friends, and the biggest of all… I was going to get married in June. Then, what seemed out of nowhere, COVID19 struck the world. However, our God isn’t an “out of nowhere” type of God. He is a God of order and peace (1 Cor 14:33). Everything that happens is under the control of God and if there is one thing the EVERYONE learned during this pandemic, was that we are in control of nothing!
ROMANS 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
It’s not up to us to understand what God is doing, but it is our responsibility to trust that what He is doing is for a greater purpose and ultimately will be what is best for us. Inevitably, about 80 days before my wedding on June 6th, we postponed. I threw myself a pity party for about 5 minutes and then I worshiped. I knew God had this entire situation under his control and that, truly, everything happens for a reason. I know God isn’t going to just let my wedding be cancelled. I know that when we are able to have our wedding it will be that much more special and God will be glorified. I think our guests will have a new appreciation for being able to celebrate together and perhaps be that much more open to hearing the Gospel.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I feel so much comfort knowing that God is in control of this situation and I feel so lucky that during this crazy time in the world, that I know Jesus. I am not experiencing the same anxiety, uncertainty or hopelessness I notice a lot of others expressing. I have the peace of God within me, something that surpasses human understanding. Peace is a promise from God, and he never breaks his promises (Hebrews 6:18). I rejoice knowing that God is with me even during a pandemic. Though it may seem like we are in deep waters, the Lord will not let us drown.
Matthew 6:34 (MSG) Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
I still don’t know if I will be able to have my wedding in the near future or when this virus will go away. But I do know that during this period of waiting, God is calling me closer to Him. He is teaching me to be disciplined in keeping my focus on Him at all times. To not get distracted by what “might” happen. He is giving me an opportunity to have more time to talk with Him, be in His word, fellowship with & care for others, and to simply watch him do His work and prepare me for the work that He will lead me to do. It’s not my job to worry; it’s my job to worship. Each day of waiting is another opportunity to trust God - and great is His faithfulness!
As I’ve jumped into the Scripture over these past few months I’ve asked God to reveal himself to me and to teach me His way. I pray that these verses will strengthen your faith as you wait, as they have strengthened mine.
What has God taught you in this period of waiting?
Hey beautiful and faithful Moms of Teen Girls!
If I asked you to write a letter of encouragement to your younger self, what is the first
thing that comes to your mind? (Pause)
Do any of these resonate: “There was purpose in what you went through and God used it for good.”, “God was always with you. You were never alone, beloved. His hand was on you.”, “Yes, “it” was hard. You were lonely and didn’t have anyone to talk to. But Jesus died for the brokenhearted to heal and redeem. That’s what you are today, free, redeemed, and guilt free.”. These are only some of the things I wrote in my letter to my younger self.
I encourage you to write a letter of affirmation to your younger self as a blessing too.
Her Life Speaks is hosting a NJ event for teen girls called The Beauty Project which
came from a vision God gave me as I started to heal from my adolescence. As God
redeemed each part of my hurt and suffering he showed me that girls today don’t have
to live by the same lie that I believed which was, I didn’t have a choice. I thought I was
supposed to go along with the crowd or act out the behaviors I saw in the movies. “Girls
just want to have fun”... don’t we? I learned on my own how to get the attention and love
My vision is for teen girls to know they have a choice on the decisions they make, that
girls know they are God’s Masterpiece, He loves them and values them so much that
He created them for his purpose, and wants a relationship with them. I wish someone
told me that and now we will. Your daughter will be empowered to know Jesus as their
best friend and equip them to make healthy decisions that intentionally line up with his
purpose for them.
At the Beauty Project we are creating a fun and festive experience for teen girls to
understand their true worth and value by way of using God’s promises for their lives.
We’re going to girl talk about faith, friendships and fashion! They’ll make storyboards,
enjoy lite bites and get up close with our new worship leader!
Moms, this is the kind of event we wish we all had growing up!
The girls will all hear the same word and can hold each up with accountability and
support. They will make wiser decisions knowing their value because of Jesus. They will
be empowered to live in confidence and to own their choices over what social media
tempts them with.
We CAN do this together! Please make this a priority in your daughter’s schedule and
bring her with a group of friends. You’ll be so glad you did. Hopefully, her letter-to-self
will look much differently than ours. I’ll take that bet. Together, let’s lay that foundation in
her heart that she can depend on forever. #Jesus
Written by Dani M.
Everyone has the desire to be loved and wanted by others. We often think the more friends the better, the more people that like us the happier we will be. In middle school I looked for approval in my classmates, rather than the one whose opinion is most important- God.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20)
Picking the right friends with good morals was a struggle for me in middle school. Instead of looking for friends with Godly attributes I desired to be liked and looked up to by my peers. I craved acceptance from the other girls at the lunch table. Early October one year, I vividly remember sitting at the long table in the cafeteria when I started to hear conversation about Halloween. It was common for each lunch table to do a group costume and attend the same party. When I noticed that most of the girls in the group were being secretive, I immediately felt a pit in my stomach. Shortly after, I had heard from a few of the girls that a separate group chat was created without me in it to discuss the costume. I went up to my room that day after school and cried for hours. I felt unworthy, unwanted and unimportant. I confronted my close friends in the group and asked why they did not want me to be a part of the costume? They confided in me and had told me that the ringleader of the group had not wanted me to be apart and influenced the other girls to exclude me.
A few days passed and it wasn’t long before my mother asked me what was wrong. I told her the story and she asked me the question, “What does the Bible say about friendships?” At the time I didn’t think the Bible could solve my friend drama or make me feel any better. Well, was I wrong! Here’s what I learned.
Jesus longs for a personal friendship with each one of us. He wants to be the one we love to spend time with, the one to whom we pour out our heart, the one we high five when we do well on a test! He’s our best friend, wise, patient and the definition of love (John 15:13). When we get to know Jesus we learn our true value and purpose. God created us to be in fellowship with Him and this is the example we are to recreate with the friends we choose in life. I learned to be more selective and find friends who had godly wisdom (Proverbs 13:20) to share and were reliable (Proverbs 18:20).
God gives many examples of powerful and strong friendships in the Bible: David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, Christ and Mankind. It is important to examine your own friend group and ask, is this a clique or a friendship circle? Am I doing anything to make someone feel unwanted? Am I surrounding myself with people who make me feel good for who I am? Good friendships take time to develop but are a gift from God. What kind of friend are you?
By April Sliwak
Recently I was in a conundrum about which direction to take the ministry that God has entrusted to me. This is a pretty big deal because as the leader, (and if you’re making decisions about which path to take, you’ll identify with this too), it’s a big responsibility. I don’t like to make conclusions on my own because then it’s just that, on my own. But when I reach out to God and I hear from him, he’ll show me the way and the plan will succeed.
"Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. " Proverbs 16:3
However, I wasn’t hearing from God like I usually do and the more time that passed the more opinions, suggestions and ideas I received. But where was God? I hadn’t received the confirmation that I needed to proceed. Confusion, doubt and fear started to set in and I knew these thoughts weren’t from the Lord because he is not a God of confusion but of confidence. This was spiritual warfare.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of confidence."
1 Timothy 1:7
I needed discernment without all the distractions and so I took some time to contemplate. These steps always work for me and encourage you to give them a try next time you’re looking for the path you should go:
Step 1: WITHDRAW
I stepped away from everything for a while to fast and pray. Fasting helps me focus on Jesus and his will and praying opens me up to a word from him.
Isaiah 66:18 says, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” I needed to get right with God by confessing regularly so he would hear my requests.
Step 2: THE WORD
The Bible is the purest form of discernment and direction for ministry, (and life). It’s unbiased, and its motive is for God’s glory.
Psalm 119:140 “Your word is very pure; Therefore, Your servant loves it.”. As much as I value opinions and vision, I rely on guidance from the Lord to reveal and confirm his will. God’s answers are for his purpose and glory.
Step 3: WAIT
I waited for an answer. Waited to hear from him with clarity and faith to receive blessing. Wait can be super hard but as decision makers, we have to wait for a word and it takes trust and patience.
Isaiah 30:18, “For this reason the Lord is ready to show you mercy; he sits on his throne, ready to have compassion on you. Indeed, the Lord is a just God; all who wait for him in faith will be blessed.”
I finally heard from God and this is what he said: “April, I chose you to do this work, what the heck are you confused about? My yes is yes! GO!”
That’s all I needed to hear. Encouragement and affirmation!
So, any time we need to know for certain what God is calling us to do or an important decision to make, try these three steps and watch what God can do.
What are you faced with today that these steps could be applied?
It was this summer, 20 years ago in 1999, that my life was going to change but I had no idea it would. It was then that I was invited by a friend to a women’s Bible Study while my daughters were attending Vacation Bible School, (VBS). At this point in my life I was hungry to know God and this was a great opportunity to do so. I walked into the Pastor’s wife’s living room by myself, I didn’t know anyone. I sat down amongst a room full of women who were obviously familiar with each other and the Word of God. For the first time in my life, I kept my mouth shut!
I’m not kidding. I felt out of my league. While listening to these sage women of faith talk about God in their stories, I thought to myself, “Where have I been all my life?”. They all seemed to know this secret, this way of loving God like a friend, knowing God personally, having felt God and seen him in their lives. I knew God. But not like this. I knew him traditionally, seasonally; at holidays and funerals, I knew he was “up there” and I was “down here”, I knew I could recite scripture prayers to him like the Lord’s prayer and 23rd Psalm, I knew he created the world and everything in it, I knew he died on the cross and rose again.
But these women knew something else, something more. They knew Jesus like a family member and friend. They shared authentic stories of their families, marriages, and children and who God was in their lives. I saw a dependency and faith in God that I had never experienced before. God used these Titus 2 women, (mature women in faith who teach about God), to grab my attention, help me to see who God is in a personal way, and recognize that I have my own story to share.
“Walk with the wise and become wise” Proverbs 15:22a
This is when my spiritual journey began. From there, God led me into various communities of women to grow in faith, do life together, and to experience all of the One Anothers that we encounter in the Body of Christ.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”
Doing life together, starting at any stage is crucial. It’s a declaration by Jesus. He knows we need one another to love, pray and support our decisions, struggles, loss, etc. Numerous times in the scriptures Jesus displays community by sharing, teaching, loving and eating around a table. I think Jesus enjoyed a good meal too!
Twenty years later, I still need my community of friends and they need me. I can tell you wholeheartedly that I would not be the same person today if it not for the intimacy, authenticity, non-judgmental and confidentiality we share. It’s been a sacred and very special journey and we depend on one another still as we are going into the next season of our lives; parenting adult children, weddings, caring for our aging parents, illness, grandchildren, empty nesting, downsizing, moving, death, and leading ministry.
“Where there is no guidance, a people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 11:14
I didn’t know then how God would use my community of friends to mold my life and fill a need that I didn’t know I would have. They’ve made an impression in my heart that is forever imprinted which reveals itself in every area of my life to this day. I didn’t know… But God did.
Thoughts to ponder:
It can be really hard to go somewhere by yourself. A friend encouraged me to go to a Bible Study and I went by myself and it changed my life forever. My invitation to you: Would you join us at a Her Life Speaks Small Group in September?
Imagine what your life would have looked like if you had a community of women to do life with 5 years ago… 10 years ago…. Last year… If you had community of Titus women pouring into you with love, support, wisdom and prayer. What would your life will look today?
Imagine what your life will look like with a community of women you can do life with now and what it will look like one year from today!
“But wisdom is shown to be right by its results” Matthew 11:19
The number one-way women attend a small group community is by invitation from a friend. Who can you invite to the Her Life Speaks community this Fall?
By April Sliwak
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.